Episode 65 Ben Jackson
Fluffetts Farm (eggs)

This week’s guest has a brilliant way of describing his striking career change in 2008, when he went from ‘birdless flight to flightless birds’.  I’ll explain! 

For more than a decade, Ben Jackson had been the MD of the London Beach Store – a business he loved, because it focussed on his fascination for kite surfing, which had begun when he was 3 years old.  

Then, just over a decade ago, he got involved in running his family’s farm and has never looked back. Fluffetts specialises in what it calls ‘genuinely free range eggs’ and Ben has built up encyclopaedic knowledge about every aspect of hen behaviour and egg laying. 

For instance, the ‘pecking order’ really does exist and most flocks have a hard-core escape committee: birds who work out how to fly over any barrier and into the woods, never to return.   

And if you’ve ever wondered why egg yolks vary in colour from pale yellow to orange or why the shells of larger eggs tend to be more brittle than those of smaller ones, Ben has the answers.  Some of them will make your mind boggle.  

I’ve wanted to dive deep into eggs for a long time.  We consume millions of them a day across the country.  But with battery farming, organic and free range, I think there is a great deal of confusion around such an everyday product. So it’s time to get myth busting and get some actual facts.  Enjoy the conversation.  

Episode 64 Vince Noyce and
Dich Oatley – British Rum

Craft beers and gins have come into their own in the last few years – alongside artisanal bakeries and independent coffee roasters.  So what’s going to be the next big thing amongst small, specialist food and drink businesses? 

If you listened to my podcast with Keterina Albanese at the Pub Show, it could be cider, English whisky or rum.  If it’s rum, then Giles Collighan, Vince Noyce and Dich Oatley will be leading the way. 

I caught up with Vince and Dich at the Portsmouth Distillery, where I discovered that the word ‘rum’ is really an umbrella term for a drink that comes in different guises, from the floral French ‘agricole’ which uses sugar cane juice to the molasses-based rum associated with the British Navy. 

Regular listeners will know that I love meeting people who do things properly.  Who really research and understand their craft and don’t take shortcuts.  This edition is yet another tale of dedication and patience, with Vince in particular devoting hours to researching different rums across the Caribbean, from the Dominican Republic in the North down to Trinidad in the South. It’s a tough gig, but someone’s got to do it… 

And now, they have to impatiently wait 3 years for some of their barrel aged rum to mature, hidden in a casement of a fort built in 1785, providing perfect temperature controlled ageing conditions.    

Episode 63 Mark Rogers
Twinways Orchard and Bees

I’ve waited a very long time to interview this weeks guest.  But patience paid off, and I’m utterly sure this programme will blow, or at least open your mind just a little bit more. 

It’s about those tiny little creatures without whom this podcast would not exist, in the sense that so much of the food and drink we eat is dependent on this insect’s ability to pollinate plants.  

Mark Rogers, owner of Twinways Orchard, has immersed himself in the world of bees for years. Whilst I knew bees were important, and I knew they were being threatened, for a very long time I’ve wanted to speak to an expert about what exactly is going on and why we should be concerned. 

Mark will reveal parts of bees lives that sound like they belong to science fiction – and yet they’re happening all around us, without us noticing.    

For instance, I thought being Queen Bee was a nice gig.  It turns out she’s not the boss at all but the hive’s egg slave, being herded around by her inferiors. 

And did you know that honeybees are greedy vandals?  Give them half a chance and they will rip a hole in the bottom of a flower to get to the nectar, leaving nothing for other types of insect whose tongues were designed specifically for that plant and will pollinate it properly.  

And we haven’t got onto the figure-of-eight dance that bees do, and the amazing things it tells other bees, or how long bees can survive in the post. 

When you listen, I hope you learn as much as I did, and I hope that you will never want to spray your roses, or any other plant, again. 

Episode 62 Sue Quinn
Journalist and Cookbook Writer

I always wanted this podcast to be pretty eclectic in it’s range of guests, all hung under this idea of hospitality in its broadest sense, where food and drink is the common denominator.  This weeks guest, Sue Quinn is a food writer and cookbook author.  I wanted to chat to Sue about the importance of the written word in hospitality, and I guess life in general.  The reviewers, the critics and the influencers are all having an impact on our venues and our daily lives.   

From the ghee butter in Olivia Coleman’s Oscar-winning goody bag, and the rise of ultra-processed vegan food to the eery beauty of cacao pods that look like alien lanterns: this gives you a flavour of the range of topics that Sue explores in her writing life. 

But her early career was far removed from food and drink. Sue was a political journalist in Australia before moving the UK as London correspondent. After a stint at the Guardian as a home news reporter, she went freelance, and began editing and then writing cookbooks. 

Sue’s now an award-winning food writer, journalist and cookbook author. Her articles and recipes regularly appear in the Telegraph, the Sunday Times and the Guardian and her books range from Easy Vegan to Cocoa, her most recent encyclopaedic work on chocolate. In the interests of research, Sue even travelled to Mexico, where she sampled gorgeous artisanal hot chocolate – something she was well qualified to do because she has accreditations in both chocolate and cheese tasting. 

As you’ll hear, variety really is the spice of this writer’s life – and Sue’s ability to turn her pen to a range of projects is an advantage in a sector which has seen a huge amount of change in the last few years. 

Episode 61 Andrew Stembridge
Executive Director of Iconic Luxury Hotels

I love the challenges of operating hotels… well, even if I don’t necessarily love them, because it’s really hard, I do at least find them utterly fascinating.  We’ve not been to a hotel for a while, but I so enjoyed chatting to Gareth Banner from The Ned a fair few episodes ago, I thought it was time to return.  This time, instead of one super huge hotel in the city, we’re taking a look at a few stunning properties spread over a somewhat larger area. 

And If you want examples of how hotels can evolve with the times, and bring in new types of guests, without alienating their traditional following, this is the episode for you.     

Andrew Stembridge is Executive Director of Iconic Luxury Hotels. They are a small and impressive collection, including The Lygon Arms, a coaching inn that dates back to the 1600s; Cliveden House, a stately home and Chewton Glen, an 18th Century manor house which has enjoyed half a century of award-winning 5 star-hospitality.  

As you’ll hear, Chewton Glen has led the way over the decades. It was one of the first hotels in the country to open a spa, in 1990. Under Andrew’s leadership, it has also become very family-friendly, with wonderful tree house lodges (more on those in a moment), the Beehive Kids’ Club, and classes at the hotel’s cookery school, The Kitchen.   And by hosting Chris Evans’ Children in Need events, it’s broadened its fanbase even more, and helped to raise millions of pounds along the way. 

So how do you introduce so much change, and still maintain the historical spirit  of a place?  Keep listening, and you’ll find out.